Lilly Ledbetter on Equal Pay in NYC and Elsewhere

Friday, May 09, 2014

Lilly Ledbetter, equal pay advocate (and namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Act), discusses her support for efforts on the part of New York City's school safety agents, and other issues around fair pay around the country.


Lilly Ledbetter

Comments [27]

Is she really recommending babysitters be paid more? A job that can be done by either a 13-year old neighbor or older sibling should be paid a living wage or higher? She remembers the wage is being paid by parents with aftertax dollars right? She realizes the babysitter or nannies wages need to be less than (in a rational market) what one of the parents makes from their job for the same hours?

Much more detail and argument is required t make sense of the conversation. Brian, you need to agree less with your guests and challenge them more. You need to be your audience's voice. We can't rely on callers to be articulate.

May. 13 2014 12:19 PM

Mr. Lehrer:

Since you seem to be interested in questioning basic assumptions, why is it that you always assume that the higher of two salaries is more "just" than the lower salary? Maybe Ms. Leadbutter and you are making a case for paying the school safety officers at the lower rate of crossing guards?

May. 11 2014 09:27 AM
Elizabeth from New York

I wanted to ask Lilly Ledbetter what she thought about R.N.'s with a
B.S. Degree + many years of experience salaries? The Nurses union,
N.Y.S.N.A. & the nurses personalities in general are passive. Although,
there have been instances of R.N.'s striking & marching for better
salaries, more personnel, etc. Generally,they do not fight for better
benefits, salaries, hazardous duty pay,etc. What is your opinion on
their lack of "fight" Ms. Ledbetter?
Thank-you for all that you have done re: women's salaries.

May. 10 2014 08:16 PM


Wondering what data set you are using to make assertions about compensation levels for pediatricians or for whether such specialties have a “disproportionate” number of women or men? ( and is that disproportionate to the general population of women or to the general population of women who are medical doctors?, etc. . . . ) In the 1950’s I was cared for by pediatricians who appeared to be men; just as irrelevant, in the 1980’s, the only aspiring sports medicine doctor I knew was a woman. Go figure.

"Pediatrics" is sometimes conflated with "primary care", also a specialty that is thought of as having lower rates of compensation. It's hard to know what your "disproportionate" designation contemplates. Is it justifiable that "pediatric-primary-care" physicians are paid less for their services than "pediatric-oncologists" or "pediatric-neurosurgeons"?
Should the "law" require that patients pay an equal amount to each doctor?

May. 10 2014 02:54 PM

Brian, thanks for having Lillie on. First, a great example of a profession that involves caring for children paying less: Pediatricians are the lowest paid of physicians, though they have the same training, and do the same work, as internists. There are also a disproportionate number of women doctors working as pediatricians. Sadly, I believe this is evidence of the contempt with which our society views its children, and by extension, those who care for them. Long before there were undocumented immigrants working as babysitters, there were, and still are, African-American women, who could be paid very little because they were shut out of those skilled factory jobs, no matter how good their manual dexterity or spatial perception. As to teacher salaries, what you are seeing today is the result of decades of organizing and strikes of teachers unions. I know many teachers and they spend evenings, at least one day of the weekend, some time in the summer doing lesson plans, marking papers, taking workshops. Mr UWS, while $25/hr sounds like good money, remember, if you are paying in cash, that's no social security, no health insurance, no pension, no worker's comp, no disability, no paid sick time. Subtract having to cover all that out of pocket, and you are nowhere.

May. 09 2014 07:33 PM

If baby sitters think they make too little money, they can try becoming engineers, or assembly-line workers, or furniture designers, or whatever that pays more than a baby sitter.
The fact is that being a baby sitter , though it can be argued that it takes "skill" and "attention," and "alertness," and "work," does not involve the same kind of physical, spatial, skill-oriented tasks that are involved in working with machines, or putting together complex devices, or certain kinds of manufacturing etc.
Argue as much as you want that it is important to "help raise the next generation" by teaching them, and providing care for them, it is still an emotional argument. It is mixing a "sensitive" idea with a practical one.
Kids can be hard to keep an eye on, they can be hard to keep clean and healthy, and of course this does not consider special needs children who have to be especially cared for and taught carefully, but you just don't hear about people saying that they are going to become a construction worker or an electrician or airplane pilot because it is easier than caring for kids.
Undocumented people flock to child care (and elder care ) because it is easier to get into such line of work.
No need to know complicated math, or accounting, or surgery, or engineering drafting ( etc etc).

Teachers do typically make more than most baby sitters. Teaching requires having to go to school to become a teacher.
Though it is important to talk about equal pay for equal work, I think that the examples brought up regarding the importance of child care to the importance of making cars do little justice to the issue.
There are outstanding incidents of women getting paid less for being women when they do the exact same work. But the fact is that there are few women in jobs that require physical strength and/or extensive schooling.

May. 09 2014 11:01 AM

I guess the most relevant question, as to Miss Ledbutter's principles, might be, "How much did she pay the "babysitters" who cared for her children?"
Can we expect WNYC's hard-nosed reporters to ferret out that information?

May. 09 2014 10:54 AM
RJ from prospect hts

I don't agree that level of degree should be a primary gauge for judging pay, that higher ed debts should be a gauge. Workers in the backrooms of restaurants--the people who deal with chopping and dicing food, cleaning have a significant impact on the health of the community--the people who eat there, their fellow workers. Why should they be paid less than a person with a master's in English lit? English lit is arguably a valuable contribution to society but the food workers should not be considered *less* valuable. Yes, they're not comparable types of work, but the issue Brian raised was *training* level, educational level, and that is inappropriate.

The training levels for people who are considered "low skil" or "menial" labor workers are not valued properly. Farmworkers have in fact important training that's necessary for providing healthy food;. When the transit workers went on strike, personal inconvenience got in the way of too many passengers acknowledging the safety responsibilities they have and the working conditions they live under.

All of this feeds into the vast and growing inequality of income in our society, between the CEO who create enormous damage as we've seen in the financial crises being grossly overpaid compared to people like the school safety agents Ms. Ledbetter is here to support.

May. 09 2014 10:43 AM

What makes Miss Ledbutter so special. Why shouldn't everyone get a movie that purports to tell the story of their life - and if there isn't enough time for that, how about giving everyone the same amount of money that she gets for the movie? (I agree - that's ridiculous.)

" . . . Lilly Ledbetter was an employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. who waited more than five years after discovering a pay disparity with her male co-workers to file a claim under the Civil Rights Act. The law had a 300-day time limit (180 days in some states) for filing claims. The Supreme Court ruled that Ledbetter had waited too long. . . . "

May. 09 2014 10:37 AM
John A

Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond
Link, for use before the page is updated:

May. 09 2014 10:35 AM
dan k from park slope

Brian, Big fan, but you really need to learn more about what's required in different professions. To begin with, all Master's degrees are not equal. Some are 1 year, and some are 3 years. Some, like architecture schools, make you work so much you can't hold a side job. Then when you graduate with all that debt, you get paid about 45K/yr on avg, and you then have to get licensed, with 7, all day exams. The avg architect gets about 2-3 weeks off all year, and works about 10hrs a day, often weekend, and sometime all-nighters. After that, if you want to run your own jobs, you have to have malpractice insurance, which last I checked, and tho maybe they should, teachers do not. Architects do not get off summer breaks, winter, xmas, spring breaks, or otherwise. They also need to learn vast amounts about various different fields, such that they are fully informed about all aspects of building, the environment, history, mechanics and structure, materials, design, climate, etc... I went through a lot of different schools, and rarely did I encounter a teacher who needed to know nearly as much, nor were any of them held responsible for any malpractice. Architects also don't have unions that get them benefits, protections against their employers, pensions, etc. Maybe you need to have a show about what's actually included in different professions, and ask yourself who would actually qualify for each. Pay them any less and architects will disappear entirely

May. 09 2014 10:35 AM
Robert from NJ

These issues are complex and sex discrimination is everywhere. recent article in WSJ discussed law firms where women make less than men being correlated to billing rates. That can make sense; you bill more, you earn more. In contrast, my wife, a partner is a 150+ law firm, is maybe the 12th highest earner, but only 6 or 7 bill a higher rate. Many factors are present in the above situation and one clearly includes politics and discrimination.

May. 09 2014 10:28 AM
Howard from Bronx

Conflating babysitters with daycare workers and safety officers and teachers is an invalid comparison. In times past, child care workers (nannies) and teachers were little more than servants of those who could afford servants.

May. 09 2014 10:27 AM
Alan from Varick St.

Sorry Brian, but architects get paid very poorly, especially when they come out of school.

May. 09 2014 10:27 AM
Caesar Romaine from Manhattan

Teachers - if you don't like how much money you're getting paid, quit. No one forces you to do it. Your salary wasn't a secret when you were hired. If schools can't attract employees they will have to increase salaries. Ledbetter's situation is different.

May. 09 2014 10:26 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Yes, it is incredibly ironic that most caregivers and teachers who help to shape us and our children are among the lowest paid. What does that say about us as a society?

May. 09 2014 10:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

What does Ms. Ledbetter think about the limitations of the law that was based on her case? Shouldn't it have reached back as long as the unequal pay was in effect?

May. 09 2014 10:23 AM
Dan from UWS

Are you aware that childcare on the UWS & UES now averages $25 per hour?
And that's CASH payment. And forget about even trying to find a decent person for less than that!

May. 09 2014 10:23 AM
Nancy from Harlem

Whatever their gender, EVERYONE working full time -- laboring with the sweat and effort of their mind and body -- should be paid wages sufficient to enable them to live and support their families. That's what we need to work toward.

May. 09 2014 10:22 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I wonder what an employer would say, when asked about paying female employees less? Do they ever offer an actual reason?

May. 09 2014 10:22 AM

As per the conversation about why people who work with children make less than anyone else, I think the reason babysitters make less is primarily because it has to be financially worth it for the mom (or dad, but generally mom) to go back to work. If she's paying more to the sitter than she would make, then she's going to stay home.

I don't necessarily think this is fair, but I think it's the reality. Working with kids is way harder than anything I've done in an office job.

May. 09 2014 10:21 AM
The Truth from Becky

Whoo whee that's a southern accent for ya! I have spent a LOT of time in Georgia and never heard an accent as pronounced as this! I am listening attentively and I think I agree with her?

May. 09 2014 10:21 AM
Jake from NYC

Isn't the reason that babysitters and nannies make less than other workers is that the people paying them often hire them in order to take a job outside the home? So they are unwilling to pay over a high percentage of their wage to the sitter/nanny. Not saying it's right; but that's the reality.

May. 09 2014 10:19 AM

Is it just me, but do teachers not get every holiday and summer off? It wasn't even considered a full time job until recent history. At least out here in the suburbs, they routinely make over 100k and are off at 3pm. They are provided with a mostly tax payer subsidized pension and medical that they can receive as early as 55 for the rest of their lives. With common core, the lesson plans are even provided. I love teachers, but let's not go overboard here.

May. 09 2014 10:18 AM

I'm listening to your Show now. Very important subject matter. Thank you for discussing.

I earn LESS than administrative assistants in my organization, I recently learned. I'm a licensed Professional Engineer and with 20+ years experience.
Yes, I am a female.

May. 09 2014 10:14 AM

May. 09 2014 10:10 AM
Nancy from Harlem

Lilly Ledbetter, you are one of my top HEROES. I have nothing but admiration for you, and thank you for your work on this issue. THANK YOU, L.L.!

May. 09 2014 10:08 AM

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